This is the enthusiast’s class…or at least, the wealthy enthusiast’s class. Its members include some of the fastest cars offered for sale in the U.S., though we draw the line at starting prices of more than $120,000. Those priced above that figure we consider to be “exotics,” which we typically don’t cover.
Considering the cost and focus of this group, there are quite a few contenders. Least expensive is the BMW 2-Series, which starts at about $36,000. At the opposite end are cars like the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 4-door and Porsche 911, which start near $100,000 and reach well beyond that in top-line form.
There are no front-wheel-drive vehicles in this class. The BMW 2-Series, 4-Series, and 8-Series; Infiniti Q60; Jaguar F-Type; Lexus RC; Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 4-door; and Porsche 911 offer all-wheel drive as an option to rear-wheel drive. The Audi A5, Audi TT, and Nissan GT-R come standard with all-wheel drive.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
The BMW 4-Series coupe and convertible are completely redesigned; 430i models have a 255-hp turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, and M440i models get a 382-hp turbo 3.0 six with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The new high-performance M4 version packs a 473-hp turbo 3.0-liter six and an available 6-speed manual transmission, and the new 4-Series convertible has a soft top instead of the previous retractable hardtop.
The Jaguar F-Type receives updated exterior styling and a revised suspension. The engine choices have been narrowed to a 380-hp supercharged V6 and a 575-hp supercharged V8. Lastly, the high-performance SVR variant has been retired, but its 575-hp V8 now powers the R model. The Lexus LC 500 adds a soft-top convertible body style. The Porsche 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman are now offered in high-performance GTS 4.0 models that are powered by a 394-horsepower naturally aspirated 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine. The Porsche 911 was redesigned last year, and for 2021 the Targa convertible body style returns. Also new are 572-hp 911 Turbo and 640-hp 911 Turbo S models, both available in coupe or convertible form.
The Audi A5’s 4-cylinder engine receives a mild hybrid system and a 13-horsepower bump. The Mercedes-AMG GT coupe and roadster get a 54-hp bump, to 523, as well as a blacked-out Stealth Edition model. The coupe gains an ultra-performance Black Series model with a 720-horsepower 4.0-liter V8, and the AMG GT four-door lineup adds an entry-level GT43 with a 362-horsepower 3.0-liter straight six. An all-new Mercedes SL-Class is set to debut in 2021, but it will likely be a 2022 model. The SLC-Class has been discontinued. The Toyota Supra gains an entry-level 2.0 model powered by a 255-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The previously available 3.0-liter inline six continues, but it’s bumped up to 382 horsepower from 335. Supra 3.0 models also receive revised chassis tuning and under-hood strut-tower braces, and a specially trimmed A91 Edition (limited to 1000 units) joins the model lineup. The Alfa Romeo 4C and Audi TT are likely to be discontinued soon.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
The Lexus LC offers a LC 500h hybrid version powered by a 3.5-liter V6 paired with two electric motors for a total output of 354 hp. The engines in the Alfa Romeo 4C, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman are located behind the cockpit instead of in front of it. As for power, a car really has to offer more than 600 hp (!) to “stand out” in this class. Those that do are the BMW M8, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series coupe, Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-door, and the Porsche 911 Turbo S.
Vehicles in the Premium Sporty/Performance Car class:
Alfa Romeo 4C
Mercedes-Benz AMG GT
Porsche 718 Boxster
Porsche 718 Cayman